Cuban Salsa is an umbrella term used outside of Cuba, mainly to distinguish it from other salsa styles when the term was popularised in the 1970s. In Cuba itself the dance is called Casino (originated from Casino Deportivos – the dance halls where a lot of social dancing was done among the better-off Cubans during the mid 20th century). At present, when you hear the term Cuban Salsa, you will have an understanding that the dance also incorporates other Cuban dances other than Casino in the style. So when learning Cuban Salsa, naturally you will come across some AfroCuban classes too for example, or Rumba or Son, even Reggaeton. This is actually what gives the dance its life: the spontaneous use of the rich Cuban dance vocabulary while dancing Casino. When a Casino dancer improvises, they often reference other dances; integrating movements and extended passages from the folkloric and popular heritage. At the same time they can experiment with the more modern hip hop style gestures. This will become more obvious when you come across Timba: Cuba’s intense and energetic music and dance form. Improvisation is commonplace in Timba music, so a Cuban Salsa dancer needs to have enough dance vocabulary from across the Cuban dances.
Rueda de Casino
It won’t be complete talking about Cuban Salsa if we don’t mention Rueda de Casino, born in Casino Deportivos as above. Rueda de Casino (Rueda) is Casino danced with multiple partners in a circular fashion (Rueda means wheel in English). Pairs of dancers form a circle, with dance moves called out by one person, a caller (or cantante in Spanish). Many moves involve changing partners, where the dancers move around the circle to form a new pair. The names of the moves are mostly called in Spanish, although some are in English or Spanglish. While there are some common forms, these calls can change from town to town or even from teacher to teacher. In Europe though, it is popular to use a standardised list of Rueda moves known as the Norwegian Rueda Standard.